What is Content Marketing? How To Create Brand Value

what is content marketing

In 2020, to win sales you first have to win souls: and content marketing is how you reach hearts and minds. And value is the key.

Let’s back up: because it’s the current and future paradigm, you see the phrase Content Marketing thrown around so often that it may have lost all meaning (if you even knew what it was in the first place). What the ever-loving-YouTuber-influencer is content, anyway?

Content is information meets experience, expressed in a medium. Okay, English, doc: it’s the stuff. All the stuff you see across the digital and physical world. Photos, videos, articles, speeches, gifs, ads, skywriting, that weird anonymous letter telling you to change your identity and flee the country: it’s all content. The kicker is how it’s used, and how valuable and meaningful it is to a consumer.

Content marketing, then (to paraphrase the Content Marketing Institute) is the creation of online material that piques and stimulates consumer interest. It’s a marketing strategy based on synthesizing and spreading valuable, relevant, relatable, and compelling content to your audience, and entice them towards brand loyalty with education, feeling, humor, or all of the above. Rather than just screaming a message without a target, a good content marketing strategy will be useful and laser-focused. The best content strategy will make a consumer think it was their idea to buy, making it a strong profitability agent.

The trick is to supplement and side-step your main message, and slide your meaning and message in there through new and engaging forms from traditional old ads.

Wendy’s sassy roasts on Twitter? Content marketing.

The Skittles Broadway Musical they produced instead of a Super Bowl commercial? Content marketing.

KFC creating a whole Dungeons & Dragons-eque board game to promote fried chicken? AND a dating simulator where you flirt with a manga-style Colonel Sanders? …okay, weird. But still Con.Tent. Marketing.

We all lead digital lives. (how are you reading this if you don’t?) MACLYN excels as a content marketing agency. Our creative crew came up in the internet age, and they’re primed to lead you to the pixelated promised land. Now that we’ve answered WHAT is Content Marketing, here’s some WHY and HOW.

The Styles

Digital marketing is made up of many different types of content.

Content Creation

The best agencies specialize in content creation. Immortal shots that are also of the moment even as they are timeless. Every click of the camera should count. Whoever said “a picture says a thousand words” didn’t have a big enough imagination. A good photo says what words never could. Our content creators specialize in this kind of photography – those immortal images that are both of the moment, and timeless. New and unexpected, yet immediately familiar.

Most commerce is emotional. When they’re most likely to click the cursor to buy, is when shot through the heart by your shot. You, feeling something? That will always sell. Combined with content strategy to know where, when, and why to post it, you will boost your business goals with your target audience clamoring for more.

Educational Blogs

SEO writing is a must-have, but it should also count for more than your Google rank. Blog posts can boost your profile of credibility (and your ranking in search engines. We’re doing both right now 😉 ) Case studies, too, can be this informational investment.

Everyone on LinkedIn talks about thought leadership, but a real leader fosters understanding. Teach a man to fish, eh? But first, give him the fish in the form of informational white papers, instructional courses or casual blogs flaunting your unique expertise. Research supports that strong educational content can make customers 131% more likely to buy from you. Teaching creates trust, trust creates transaction. Learn something new every day, huh?

Videos

Video killed the radio star, right? Engaging video can break up the monotony of a feed. The entirety of YouTube is proof positive that video can be a goldmine, but many people are reluctant because of perceived costs. With falling and rising quality of amateur equipment, it’s easier than ever to create high-grade video content. A simple phone can be terrifically effective in the hands of the right marketer. Your chances with video are always strong. Go ahead, shoot.

Podcasts

Radio killed the video star right back. Due to the digital audio boom, podcasts can be an incredibly lucrative marketing avenue. iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and more make the airwaves an intimate opportunity to join customers on their commutes. Furthermore, a popular podcast can be informational, but also incentivize tie-in sales like books, courses and live event speaking engagements.

Post With The Most

Each piece of content should count. Branded content can be a great engine for lead generation. That’s why creating a content calendar of great content also takes the burden off of you for awhile, scheduling each slice of content to target each desired buyer persona. You can get incredibly broad psychographics, to the most niche consumer: remember that Skittles commercial that was only shown to one person? (we hate to keep bringing up Skittles, but that’s what we’ve been gobbling during the whole lockdown. Tasting the rainbow just to taste anything. We’re so lonely. We’re writing SEO blogs just trying to connect. This isn’t just an informative content meta-ad for MACLYN, it’s a cry for help please someo—-)

So make stuff that inspires: but it has to be stuff that works. Our creatives and planners work hand in hand to forge the strongest content creation strategy and generate an ideal content creation plan – because the best content in the world means nothing if no one sees it (or nobody wants to).

Content Products

Everyone reads an increasing amount of clickbait titles like “how to synergize your content for disruptive diversified innovation ROI,” so as people become resistant, more companies are utilizing Content Products: an interactive experience to explain concepts or engage with the main business in a tangible way.

With the multitude of types of content, the key is to not barrage with unwanted content: the strategy of inbound marketing is built to create bespoke content, solving problems they already want solved and forging connections while doing it.

All in all, great content marketing is really about meaning and value. You won’t just be content with your content: you’ll be king.

What Is Marketing Strategy? Finding Your Ideal Advisor

what is marketing strategy

When you walk through the doors of an agency, they should have an answer to “What is marketing strategy?” There are companies that try to dazzle you with the maximum amount of buzzwords. Disrupt the digital landscape with innovative synergy ROI to directly engage and create lasting value by focus groupifying hey maybe we get paid by the buzzword and not the buzz we generate.

At MACLYN, we serve the client, not the catchphrase. We pair time-tested tactics of old with the bleeding-edge tools of today. And we boil it down to simple terms to go over with you, because marketing planning is nothing if it’s all flash and no substance.

It is crucial that your agency utilizes the right marketing tactics to champion your products or services and win a competitive advantage. To grow, your company has to turn prospective sales into closed ones. To survive, you have to have new customers to replace the old ones. The key to all of that? Strategy.

Strategy is the science (and art) of where to place your message so it’s seen by the right people, in the right place, at the right time. It’s evaluating where you are, determining where you want to be, and customizing the course to reach that destination.

And with so many other companies investing in their marketing efforts, it’s really something you can’t go without. In 2020, every company you’ve never heard of has latched onto this maxim: narrative is now the product. It is not enough to have a good product or service, if you don’t have the strategy to tell your story.

You can have the best players and still lose the game. Strategy is having a capable coach who analyzes the field to make a game plan.

You can have the best, flashiest sports car and still be lost in the desert. Strategy is having a GPS that still works, that knows the terrain and can get you where you need to go.

You can be an ace fisherman, with a souped up boat and the cutting-edge tackle that puts all the other nature dads at the Bass Pro Shop to shame, and then go to a pond that doesn’t have any fish in it. Strategy is going to the aquarium (okay no it’s not, please don’t do this and please don’t bring up that Shedd lawsuit Ian was involved in, why do we let him write these blogs oh yeah that’s right it’s because of strategy to give you good information and solid research but also peppered with weird segments like this that stand out with personality to further entrench our message of competence and cheek)

All this to say: you’re not going to meet your marketing goals if you don’t have strategic marketing. The right marketing tactics analyze and accentuate your advantages to gain a competitive edge. Both on how to tell your story, and where to tell it, at what time.

An effective marketing strategy is one that achieves your business goals and boosts your bottom line. MACLYN first listens to you in extensive discovery, to determine your correct target market and target audience (no, “everybody” is not your customer, even if you have broad appeal. Don’t worry, we’ll narrow down your niches for the highest rate of success)

We start with an honest (but optimistic) situation analysis. We look at:

Strengths – what’s working? What makes your brand the best around? Brag, baby. How can we lean into these powers even further?

Weaknesses – as your partner, we have to be gentle but direct about what’s lacking and what elements need serious improvement or have to go entirely. If a ship is leaking, wouldn’t you want us to plug the holes so you don’t sink?

Opportunities – any weakness can become a strength with the right solve and the right spin. We’ll find the right combos to allyoop and make the layup.

Threats – We learn about your competitors and determine new ones you never knew you had. It’s not the size of the fish, but how it swims.

With all these factors in mind, the plan is then formed. The plan is adaptable to fit the “what could bes” but is entirely focused on the “what will bes”. A sound strategy built to stand out, with enough secure research to succeed, and a dash of positively risky “so crazy, it just might work.” What works is what wins.

There are many marketing tools at our disposal, but how we use them will depend on the demographics and psychographics of your ideal customers. Obviously there’s a generation gap between digital and traditional forms, but it’s a lot more complicated than you’d think. Only by determining the right marketing mix can we reinforce relationships with existing customers and attract new ones. We deep-dive through the data and analyze the algorithms to cook up the best way to serve you.

A strong marketing strategy will properly leverage paid media (the traditional channels like billboards, digital space, radio time, print, etc.) and earned media (the organic coverage from news segments, PR efforts and word of mouth). The first is paying to white-wash your fence. The second is getting others to wash the fence for you, for free. (Okay, Tom Sawyer might be real old, but trust us we’re hip, trendy and “with it”. A better example might be the heartwarming videos you see on your feeds of a brand being involved in a social good. Think of getting a snowball rolling: the initial expenditure of turning people into walking billboards and brand evangelists gives you momentum beyond what money can buy, and helping others is a good way of helping yourself.)

Strategy also ensures your content marketing and social media efforts are up to snuff. The best-laid plan is nothing with sloppy execution, and any sound strategist will intervene to ensure the creative cuts through the clutter with the right tone and intention. You might be reading this after clicking on a sponsored ad. That kind of serving customized content utilizing the right keywords and channels is the bare minimum a company needs in 2020. You want a company where you can trust the basics, so we can reach even higher.

The same goes for email, too. Some want to file it away as digital direct mail that’s gone the way of the dodo, but they don’t know it’s still a numbers game. You need the people who actually know a 6% open rate can be a bragworthy number (the industry average is way lower). That’s because that company will get the right list of prospective clients, so of the people that DO open it, they’ll be likely to bite.

Last things last, the impolite thing to talk about: money. But it doesn’t have to be. Your budget isn’t a gamble, it’s an investment. It might seem daunting, especially if it’s a bigger investment. But we’ve coached many clients who felt the same way, met them where they’re at, and they never looked back. No matter how grand it seems, marketing strategy is one necessity you can afford, because it will yield a bigger return than you’ll believe. That’s because a strong marketing strategy smartly spends for maximum impact. We allocate and advise you to get the most bang for your buck, because your resources as our partner are paramount. Your success truly is our success.

At the end of the day, the strongest marketing strategy is like having an advisor at your side, taking care of the day to day so you can keep leading your kingdom. Like our wisdom? Hit us up. We’ll whisper some more from 6 feet away.

Herding Virtual Cats: Best Practices for Hosting Your Virtual Event

virtual events

Many of us had our first taste of hosting a virtual event this spring, when the world shut down and we attempted to bring our families together over Zoom. “How hard can it be?” we said as we confidently sent an invite without detailed, step-by-step instructions.

We were so young and innocent back then.

Maybe it was Easter morning, or Grandma’s birthday, or a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. But as we logged in to our virtual get-togethers – and saw that half our family couldn’t turn on their webcams, the other half couldn’t unmute their microphones, and poor Grandma Gertrude just called via landline asking what in tarnation a Meeting ID is – we quickly learned that getting the family together online is exponentially more complicated than meeting in person.

Those of us who have hosted events in the past know that hosting has always been complicated. But going virtual is a different beast. It adds a layer of technology that requires even more rigorous planning and clear communication with your audience. Anyone can walk into a physical event hall; logging in to a virtual event requires some technological literacy.

It’s also just something new. And whenever the world has to learn something new, there are going to be a few hiccups and poorly positioned webcams along the way.

As a marketing partner, the MACLYN team has planned and hosted numerous virtual events—large and small, simple and complex. Along the way, we’ve learned many less-than-obvious lessons that we wish we had known the first time, and now we’d like to pass that knowledge on to you.

These are a few of our best practices for hosting your online event:

Before you begin, ask yourself these two questions.

What is the format of this event?

What do I want the user experience to be?

If your event is intended to be an interactive meeting with a smaller group of people, go with a meeting format where attendees can interact openly, yet presenters still have the capability to share screens.

If your event is going to have little or no audience interaction, with one or more presenters running the program, you’ll want to host your event as a webinar. This format still allows for some audience interaction but offers more control over what can be seen and heard during the program.

Practice makes near-perfect.

Invite anyone who is speaking or participating in the program to join at least 15-20 minutes early. During this practice time, you’ll want to test audio, internet connections, and ensure your presenters are comfortable with the technology they are using and understand their role in the program. Additionally, ask that presenters and speakers mute their notifications (email, phone, etc.). There’s nothing worse than hearing the Twitter whistle or the Slack shuffle right when someone is making a good point.

Assign specific roles to event staff.

If you are using the chat feature, taking polls, or hosting a Q&A, there should be at least one staff member dedicated to that role.

If you are hosting multiple speakers, consider having one person share their screen for the presentation, and simply pass screen control to the speakers. Keep in mind, when you pass control to someone else, you can no longer use your computer!

There should always be one person whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the program moves along as planned. This person may have to jump in to control audio and video for presenters, allow audience members to speak, or perform any number of duties.

Engage your audience.

Passive participation is boring. The best events, virtual and otherwise, encourage the audience to do something.

There are a number of tools to help engage your audience during virtual presentations. Utilize polling, Q&A, reactions, and the chat feature to get people in on the action.

Afterwards, you can publish a recording of your event and even include the poll results, chat transcripts, and more. Make your audience feel like they are part of the event, not just watching it.

Set and manage expectations.

Let your audience know in advance what they can expect. This starts before the event. Enabling waiting rooms is a good way to let the audience know that they are in the right place but the event hasn’t started yet. Also, notify your audience in advance if there will be an opportunity to ask questions – that way, they can prepare ahead of time – and whether a recording will be available.

For your speakers, create a ‘run of show’ (agenda) so that everyone knows exactly how the program will flow and how it’s handed off from one person to the next. Smooth events are almost always the result of careful planning.

Before we sign-off, we’ll leave you with one more word of advice: Don’t expect a virtual event to be exactly like an in-person event. If you do, you’ll probably be disappointed.

With that said, virtual events can be awesome! With the right planning and communication, a virtual event can actually be more flexible and interactive than an in-person event. More people can have their voice heard, and more content can be fit into a tighter timeline. Plus, virtual events are typically more efficient and affordable – there’s no travel, no hotel rooms, no expensive décor and food service – which means that more businesses and people can participate and host their own event.

Whether you’re planning a virtual or in-person event, just remember to always focus on the experience of your audience. Keep them informed, keep them engaged, and you’ll be successful.

Want to learn more? As total marketing partners, we have a lot of experience with planning and hosting virtual and in-person events. We have a knack for pulling off smooth, interactive experiences that make the most of the technology at hand.

Feel free to contact us anytime for a free consultation with MACLYN’s expert marketing team and virtual event planners.

What To Look For When Hiring A Marketing Agency

marketing agency

Ah, the hunt for a marketing agency. It’s like dating. You swipe right on a lot of profiles. You chat, you go out, only to find they don’t match up to their picture. Some promise you the world, then ghost. Some are way too into The Office and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Some are posing holding a fish. (Why are they posing holding a fish?!)

There’s a lot of disappointment until you find the diamond you deserve. The quickest way to your perfect match, is knowing who to look for. Knowing who you need. Knowing who you deserve. Hopefully our charm matches our capability. (can we get a super like?)

She has the range, dahling

In this ever-adapting world of ours, you need to find a digital marketing agency that can do it all, but still ensure high quality. A company that crosses the United States with a full range of services in advertising and marketing. It’s a tall order, but MACLYN is a nimble hybrid that can do both. It wasn’t the dinosaurs who survived the comet: it was the fast creatures who could adapt and use the crisis to catapult themselves beyond “surviving” to “thriving”. We work with clients to do what works for them, making them so successful that they come to take it for granted. Because what works, is what wins.

You Got Served

That said, those full services should actually serve you. All the claimed capabilities in the world aren’t anything if they don’t create impact and bang for your buck. Our services are successes. From paid advertising and social media campaigns, to earned media through PR. From branded content to marketing strategies, to data analytics and demographic research. From optimizing your social media presence to leading you in thought leadership.

Every company is a technology company now. It’s not enough to be online; you need a partner who turns those tools to your advantage. Search engines should be your servant, not your obstacle, and social media platforms should spread your message, not bury it. Our SEO and social media marketing services champion your brand and take advantage of algorithms and best practices to get the word out.

Location, Location, Vocation

You’d think that after The Great Pause that location doesn’t matter, just like time (how long have we been shoveling Wheat-Thins in our mouths while ignoring the “are you still watching?” notification) – but you need a marketing company who knows the markets you’re trying to reach. Real estate makes it real. With locations in Naperville (Greater Chicago Area) and Des Moines, you don’t have to do a long-distance relationship, and we’ll show you the coolest spots and people in town. Then, soon as we’re able, we’ll party together, too. (what other agency can claim keg stands on their skillset?)

A Portfolio that Owns, Yo

A company can claim any number of things, but a good litmus test is: what is their portfolio like? It should be robust, diverse, and impactful. At MACLYN, we do what works. We don’t just deliver work that suffices; we create work that excels, that breaks through the clutter to get you the attention (and the sales) you need.

As a content marketing agency, one should be content with the content creation. One should design dazzling assets that puts a social media marketing agency on the map. Social media agencies should be companies to like, follow, and double-tap, doing social media advertising that anticipates or creates trends, and stands apart from the pack. The work should do just that: work.

The Testimonial Test

Testimonials put the ‘test’ in testament. Holds true for a Google review, holds true for our company. If you can look at an agency’s testimonials, and trust the word of their other partners, it’s usually always a good indicator that you’ll get the same star treatment. Now if only they’d implement the same feature on online dating…

A Price That Never Costs

Don’t think of the “cost”: think of the value. And don’t just search for a company with value: seek a company with values. Done right, a marketing agency should prove its worth, and even pay for itself. Another important thing is the structure. Our modular marketing approach is the way to go for many varieties of clients, from small businesses to titans of industry. We are capable of full service, but we can also offer any of our areas of expertise a la carte. We meet you where you’re at and build with you. And when you’re ready to expand, the next module is there to meet you. Or, we build the whole space station and launch it in one go. Whatever works for you.

Experience gives you the best experience

Experience is a good bet that a company knows what it’s doing. We’ve been at this for over 30 years. And in that time, you learn who you are as an agency. So, who is MACLYN?

MACLYN is where creativity has a compass. Where revolution gets results.

MACLYN is where heart meets hustle. Where ego gets checked at the door. (MACLYN is like, RIDICULOUSLY humble. No one is humbler than us. Modesty world champs.)

MACLYN is where the experts are always learning.

MACLYN is where we work smarter AND harder.

MACLYN is nimble. Adaptable. Authentic. Attentive. Honest. Durable. Intentional. Intimate. Creative. Considerate. Fun.

MACLYN is where we do what works. And what works, wins.

Let’s go out. We think we’re a keeper. You’ll think so, too.

Key Differences Between A Marketing and Advertising Agency

marketing agency vs advertising agency

You might’ve heard, but the world’s a little crazy now. Everyone is redefining themselves. You should ask yourself who you are every day. To reaffirm yourself. And as a marketing AND advertising agency, we think it’s important to ask ourselves every day: What is marketing? What is advertising? How are they different? How can they help you?

(An ad that explains ads AND boosts our SEO standing? And you’re reading it? Woah, it’s like we should work together!)

You hear the terms used interchangeably, but of course it’s a little more complicated. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. Advertising is a function of marketing, but it’s a special standalone with a specific function. Advertising is the paid effort to get your company’s message seen by a target audience. Marketing includes all of that, but it’s the broader big brother who’s better to marry even if he doesn’t sound as sexy on the surface (advertising is definitely going to text “u up?” at 2am). Marketing is all advertising, plus it involves research on who/what/where/why/how to place those ads, monitor the analytics to see how said ads are performing and get the best bang for your buck, meeting a client’s needs, and much more.

Fighter jet, aircraft carrier. Ambassador, country. Power Ranger, Power Rangers. (Metaphors are marketing, too.)

Advertising is more than just creative, but it’s the most straightforward channel: creating assets primed for the paid space and generating paid media vs. earned media (we’ll get to that in a bit with our suite of PR services).

Our creative agency excels at video production, digital advertisements, email marketing, billboards, and other ad campaigns and traditional advertising. We’re also known to go guerilla and off the wall, like event planning. (One event had a fire juggler and an ice sculpture luge to do shots off of. We promise that our virtual events will be somehow as cool in the meantime).

On social media, advertising might refer to the specific content creation. But marketing creates the digital strategy of how to place the Facebook ads, analyzing that online advertising, and long-term media planning of this vital marketing service.

This marketing strategy is built with your business goals as paramount. Our marketing experts analyze the data, research the demographics, so you can better sell your services and reach the right customers. Your agency needs to consider customer, cost, convenience and communication to cut through the clutter and chaos and come out conquering. (is alliteration a function of advertising, or marketing?)

Any marketing agency worth its salt will tell you search engine optimization is a must-have. A customer’s first visit is Google, and the higher you are in the results, the better chance you have of closing a deal. We specialize in website design and full-service digital marketing to bump you up the list.

Marketing also involves Public Relations, which is all about media monitoring and influence to get you earned media: that means news networks and word of mouth do the work for us because we’ve paired story with spin to gain public interest and engagement. By finding the right “hook” and selling your story to the right media outlets, then collecting data from every media hit, PR can propel you to success on the marketing front.

With our modular marketing approach, MACLYN performs all or some of the services of an internal marketing department—at a fraction of the cost. We handle everything: from managing your online presence and executing creative projects, to creating your marketing budget and negotiating media buys.

Marketing and advertising are essential. As the kids say, get you a man who can do both. MACLYN is your guide and guardian to get the word out, generate more sales, and generally party together. We’ve got a presence in Naperville, Chicago, and Des Moines, and serve even broader markets than that. We’re one of the most nimble and adaptable full-service agencies out there, perfectly tailored to fit this new world. Agencies offer you the world. We offer you a world that works.

The Benefits of Marketing Analytics

marketing analytics

As an agency, we are constantly looking at data – our own data, our clients’ data, industry data and so on. In order for our clients, and therefore us, to be successful, all of our decisions need to be knowledge-based – and knowledge comes from data.

It’s not enough for a marketing agency to compile and analyze data – we must also share and review data with our clients on a regular basis. Marketing analytics carry many benefits, both small and large.

So, what are the benefits?

Data informs knowledgeable decisions that lead to success. This is the crux of analytics. Every marketing agency knows that data benefits them, but there are also benefits to their clients, and everybody knows – when our client benefits, we benefit.

Client Benefits

  • Regular interaction with their marketing agency

    Reviewing reports each month with their marketing agency strengthens relationships and allows the client to become familiar with and ask questions on the different metrics being reported on.

  • Accountability

    Regular reporting helps to hold both the client and the agency accountable for the performance of their campaigns.

  • Transparency

    Trust is the truest foundation. Regular marketing reports tell the client that their agency is being fully transparent with them.

  • Education & Empowerment

    When a client regularly reviews analytics with their agency to learn more about their data, they’re empowered to ask and answer their own questions. With increased understanding, everyone’s in stronger standing.

  • Consolidated data focusing on relevant KPIs from all marketing efforts

    Marketing analytics reviews require the agency to put relevant metrics & KPIs into one easy-to-digest report. This gives the client one place to see all of the data points that are important to them, without having to sift through pages of irrelevant or unimportant data.

Agency Benefits

  • Strengthen client relationships

    Regular interactions with your clients to review analytics and help them understand their data will strengthen your relationship with them.

  • Build trust and credibility

    Along with regular interaction, reports that show the client the data that’s important to them on a regular basis will help the client to trust you and build your credibility with them.

  • Give proper credit

    Proper reporting also means proper attribution. Show your client what they are getting as a direct result of their campaigns with you.

  • Provide added value to your clients

    Clients often struggle the most when it comes to understanding analytics. Taking the time to show data in a way that makes it easy for your client digest and understand is something they will appreciate greatly.

  • Set yourself apart from the competition

    Not all agencies master data when it comes to their clients. If your agency can give the client the data they need to see in a simple format and review it on a regular basis with them to answer all their questions, you’re already a step ahead.

  • Improve analysis & decision-making

    Looking at data in-depth will help you to become better at analysis and help you to make the best decisions for the client when it comes to their marketing efforts.

At MACLYN, we make decisions based on data and we do what we can to make everyone’s lives easier. We take the time to develop reports that are unique to each of our clients and their marketing campaigns, and we take the time to sit down with our clients to help them learn and derive value from the data and answer any and all questions they have – big or small.

When it comes to analytics, there’s a lot to digest – but we’re here to sit at the table and dig in together.

Written by: Kira Ryan, Jr. Strategic Planner

E-commerce for Small Biz

online storefront

As a marketing agency, we’re seeing today’s shoppers go digital like never before. Now, businesses of all sizes – including small shops that have traditionally been brick-and-mortar – are beginning to build online storefronts.

Easier said than done! Building an online storefront and marketing it can be intimidating, especially if you’re a small business and this is your first time diving into e-commerce. Where do you begin? What are the fundamentals of a good e-commerce experience? And once your online store is built… what next?

At MACLYN, we help small businesses build and market their online stores all the time, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons along the way.

Here are a few tips to help you rock e-commerce.

Tip #1: You don’t have to build your online store from scratch.


The first thing you should know about your online storefront is that you don’t have to build it from scratch. In fact, you shouldn’t! There are many great online storefront platforms that can seamlessly integrate into your website and be customized to your brand.

One industry leader in online business – our personal favorite – is Shopify. Shopify has packages that range from basic online storefronts to advanced features that scale to your business. As an all-in-one commerce platform, Shopify allows businesses to create online storefronts, sell products online or in-person, market products through digital integrations, and manage your inventory and shipping. It’s relatively easy to use. And, most importantly, it works.

Tip #2: Start by putting a limited inventory online.

If you’re an existing retailer with a large variety of inventory, and you’re just getting started in e-commerce, consider selling a limited number of products online to start.

Of course, you want to offer what people are looking to buy online, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your entire inventory online. You’ll save time and money by starting small and building from there.

Tip #3: Don’t just fill orders—create an order fulfillment strategy.

A LOT of things happen between the time a customer clicks ‘buy’ on you online store and when they actually receive their product. There’s the receiving, the processing, the packing, the picking, and the shipping. All these elements add up to Order Fulfillment.

By creating an Order Fulfillment Strategy – an outline of the process from purchase to shipping – you can tweak your formula to find new efficiencies, stay competitive and build customer loyalty.

order fulfillment

 

Tip #4: How to set up your online store

Depending on how you build your online store – using Shopify or something similar –you will need to design and setup your storefront. This includes selecting a template, inserting your own custom branding, adding your inventory and more.

When you are setting up the store, it’s important to design it with user experience in mind. If you have a lot of products, think about how people will navigate the site and how they search for products.

You also need to add your inventory, including images and descriptions of what you are selling. For product images, you can use professional photography, vendor-supplied images, or take your own. In today’s world, you can find high-quality photo lights, or kits (like this) that will help enhance the quality.

You also need to set up your merchant services to process payment, add the online store to your website, and integrate your POS and inventory management system (if applicable).

Tip #5: Marketing online

Now that you’re built your online store, it’s time to market it! There are a variety of ways to market, and platforms like Shopify give you great tools to do this.

When marketing your online store, consider:

  • Google search campaigns for keywords related to your product.
  • Social media ad campaigns targeted to specific audiences.
  • Optimizing your product descriptions and online storefront for SEO, making it easy for people to find you when they are searching.
  • Utilizing automated tools in Shopify to run remarketing campaigns targeted based on what products consumers were searching, abandoned shopping cart email reminders, and more.


When all the pieces come together

There’s no one element that makes online marketing successful—it’s all about how the pieces fit together to build a seamless customer experience. That’s how you build loyalty, and that’s how you keep your customers coming back again and again.

Here’s an example of what happens when all the pieces come together:

  1. A customer sees an engaging ad and clicks it.
  2. They navigate your website easily – because of its stellar UX – and find just what they want.
  3. They easily make their purchase.
  4. They’re delivered the right product, on time, within their expectations.
  5. Your customer sees another engaging ad. Since they were so happy with their experience last time, they click it and buy another product.

Pro tip: If you can’t deliver on it, don’t do it. A bad customer experience is worse than no experience at all.


Want a guide for the new normal?

We know this is tough, but we can help. As your total marketing partner, MACLYN helps you tackle the challenges you face in the new normal, like getting into e-commerce for the first time. We bring together marketing expertise, business sense and a deep understanding of technology to help your business meet its goals.

Want to learn more? Schedule a free consultation with MACLYN today.

It’s Time to Outsource Your Marketing

In this post, we’re spotlighting Outsourced Marketing by MACLYN, a new service that’s perfect for small businesses and larger organizations navigating the new normal.

 

 

In the new normal, you walk a tightrope.

On the one hand, you’re trying to cut costs. On the other, your audience is going digital. They’re demanding innovations to the customer experience – like online storefronts and other digital amenities – and that means you need new capabilities, like web development, SEO, content creation and social media management.

Today, you need a wider variety of skills and technologies, just to keep up. But bringing those resources in-house is prohibitively expensive. And finding the right vendors is tough.

It’s a tricky balancing act, but we can help.

 

This is Outsourced Marketing by MACLYN

At MACLYN, we’re seeing business leaders – whether they’re the owners of a small business or the CMO of a marketing department – struggle to strike the balance between efficiency and capability that the New Normal demands.

So, we put our heads together and created a new(-ish) service:

Outsourced Marketing by MACLYN

 

What is Outsourced Marketing?

Outsourced Marketing means that you get all the marketing services you need, all from one point of contact, at a fraction of the cost of doing it in-house.

That means: no expensive new in-house employees. No confusing network of third-party vendors. No headaches. No confusion. No wasted resources. No BS.

Just the expertise and capabilities you need—in one package.

(To be honest, Outsourced Marketing is what we’ve been doing all along. We’ve always provided our clients with a custom, flexible set of marketing services that meets their business needs. But now, as the world of marketing and business evolves, we’re tweaking the way we present our approach.)

 

Full Service or A La Carte

Our Outsourced Marketing service is scaled to your needs.

You can get the full package, where we perform all the duties of an in-house marketing department and more. We handle everything: from managing your online presence and executing creative projects, to creating your marketing budget and negotiating media buys. We can even assign a dedicated MACLYN Account Executive who acts as your de facto CMO.

Or, you can select a la carte from our comprehensive range of services. Round out your marketing department with capabilities like web development, SEO, content creation and more.

Whatever your needs, we’ll help you select the right set of services.

 

Outsourced Services

MACLYN’s Outsourced Marketing services are available as a full package or a la carte. Here are some of the services we offer:

  • Outsourced CMO (A MACLYN Account Executive acts as your de facto CMO, negotiating media buys, coordinating all marketing efforts, and helping tailor your marketing budget for maximum efficiency.)
  • SEO & SEM
  • Social Media Management
  • Web development (including online storefronts and apps)
  • Content Creation (including video)
  • PR
  • Branding
  • Planning & executing creative campaigns
  • And more

 

Recap

You can cut costs and gain critical capabilities – like Web Development and SEO – by outsourcing your marketing services with MACLYN. We handle everything, from media buys to creative execution, at a fraction of the cost of an in-house team. Plus, you avoid the headaches of coordinating with a smorgasbord of vendors. MACLYN is your single point-of-contact.

As your full-service marketing partner, we bring you more value, more talent, more capabilities, and more flexibility than any in-house marketing department could provide.

We bring you more for less. Because that’s what your business needs right now.

 

Want to learn more about Outsourced Marketing? Let’s get in touch.

 

How Public Relations Plays a Role in Everyday Life

Often, public relations feels like this nebulous concept that brands have difficulty pinpointing. What is it? How can I measure its value? Why should I bother?

At its core, public relations is the art of influence. It’s about understanding the key goals and interests of your audience and communicating your message effectively, all in an effort to persuade them to attend your event, agree with your idea, or purchase your product. Essentially: It’s word-of-mouth marketing at its finest.

And it’s everywhere around us, whether we know it (or like it) or not.

From justifying salaries of high-profile athletes to political spin on the debate stage to figuring out where your group of friends should meet this weekend, the power of persuasion surrounds us on television, social media, and in our circle of friends and family. It permeates our conscious in all interactions, both professional and personal, directly and indirectly. You may be using it every day without realizing it.

Remember that friend who needed an interactive restaurant recommendation, so you told her this amazing story about your birthday brunch last year? Or that weird performance art bubble festival you shared on Facebook for college friends that would love it?

That’s everyday PR.

This art inciting action strikes a delicate balance of connected storytelling and the intangible value of trust. It’s a prized skill to hone for your communication arsenal.

Here are some key PR pillars for everyday communicators:

Clear Messaging and Appropriate Delivery.

Speak about what you know in a way that your audience can easily and quickly digest the information.

Craft an articulate message, grounded in your own, authentic voice. Consider if your audience prefers a phone call, text, or email. Do they speak in short bursts or long-form conversation?
Tailor the message to fit their needs but keep it in your voice, with a clear, concise, and direct call-to-action.

When communicating in person, be mindful of pacing, the use of filler words, and body language. Be confident.

Pro-Tip: Practice in front of the mirror! Strive to maintain eye contact with yourself a majority of the time. Get comfortable enough that you do not rely on your notes.

Timing is Everything.

Would you announce an engagement at a funeral? Absolutely not. Strategically choose a window to deliver your message, taking into account the environment around you. To keep your message from getting buried in the noise, assess factors like holidays, major life events, and breaking news that affects your audience. On the flip side, a factor like these may catapult your message to the forefront – be ready to hustle with your story at a moment’s notice.

Take Negativity in Stride.

Crisis communication is bound to happen. How you handle it will speak volumes to your audience and solidify or shatter their trust in an instant. Be truthful and empathetic, never defensive (even when you’re literally playing defense). Avoid passing blame and own up to mistakes when you can. When in doubt, sometimes the best response is no response at all.

Written by: Abbey Bobzin, Media Relations Account Executive

Co-working Through COVID-19: How to Make It Work

Here’s some fun and hopeful tips and tricks the #EnemyOfAverage has found helpful the past week. For though we’re apart, we still work right alongside one another.

– Remember that you are not alone. Though there’s a social distance, there is no distance or divide between us. And though we’re apart in our separate quarantines, we were never more together.

– Routine can be your best friend. Break your day into blocks to stay on task and keep your internal momentum going. Not only is it a source of structure and productivity: it’s a source of relief. For instance, at MACLYN, we’ve begun every morning with a virtual status meeting at 8:30 sharp: everyone checks in via webcam, wearing increasingly funny hats and outfits, and showing off their many cute pets.

 


– As good as a set schedule can be, it’s also helpful to embrace the change and roll with the punches. As we work to serve our clients, everyone’s been encouraged to chat and check in on one another through Zoom or Teams: this change of pace has actually shaken up our process and stimulated a whole wave of creativity. These impromptu virtual brainstorms have already been the genesis of many ideas we’re ecstatic to show our clients.

– We all know the CDC 20 second handwashing protocol, but Happy Birthday gets old real fast. Instead, sing the chorus of any of the following: “Mr. Brightside”, “Love On Top”, “Raspberry Beret”, “Truth Hurts”, “Landslide”, “Stayin’ Alive”, “My Sharona”, “This Land Is Your Land”, and of course, “Africa” by Toto.

 

 

– Before you stop for scheduled handwashing/jam sessions, periodically stop and do some pushups, planks, sit-ups, or stretches to clear mental cobwebs and supercharge your self-esteem. (Hemsworth brother bod, here we come!)

– Remember all those things you always said you’d do if you had unlimited time? Don’t worry, the crisis has totally called us out, too. You’ll find unexpected new hobbies instead.

– Begin training a raccoon. Name him Bandit.

 

 

– Portion out your snacks so that you don’t take more than you need: your fellow workers (and your waistline) will thank you. Save some for Bandit – hint, he loves peanut butter.

– Keep a journal of gratitude. As overwhelming as the world can feel on any given day – especially now – things are never as bleak as they seem.

– We’ll all be fighting cabin fever, so we can ward off the worry together. Keep in touch with friends and acquaintances alike. Share threads where people can add new music, photos of places you want to go after the crisis is over, books to read, TV shows to watch, comic books to tear through – there’s so much joy and hope to be had!

 

– 

 

– In the darkest times, we turn to art and entertainment. If you have the means, consider donating to artists or affiliate organizations, the ones hurting right now, who all made that hope possible.

– Also be sure to support local restaurants and businesses, hit equally hard. We always strive to create communities, but there’s been one around us all along.

– If you’ve kept up with the training regiment, by now Bandit should be able to do flips. Give him pets. He has done well. You are proud.

– The weather’s wonky, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve fresh air. Go for a quick stroll or jog, as long as you keep your distance from others. A walk in the morning can even simulate a commute and help you start your day! And while you work, leave your window open.

 

 

– You wake in the middle of the night hearing strange noises. Hrm, you left the window open. Who told you to do that? You’re shocked: a gaze of raccoons (yes, that’s the collective name for a group of raccoons, fight us) is raiding your kitchen. With the flick of the light switch they scream and scurry away, loudly hissing and scratching your new hardwood floors. Bandit sits frozen on the spot, friendship bracelet around his paw. Your heart breaks at his sudden but inevitable betrayal. “Bandit!” you sob. “How could you!” Your furry frenemy is transfixed, torn between his duty to his gaze, and his affection for you. He utters a single chitter that you swear means “I will always love you”, and backflips out the window. You’re left to pick up the crumbs.

– Vacuum your rug.

 

 

What have you found helpful as you work through these wild times? Leave us a comment! If ever there was a time we were truly all in this together, now is that time. We don’t dive into despair. We defy the doom. And we stand together until we can stand side by side once more. When the chips are down, humanity shows its true face. It’s your face. And we hope it’s able to wear a smile soon.

Cheers,
The #EnemyOfAverage